Age – It's Not Just a Number



Most of us at one time or another have heard the phrase, 'age is just a number.' Maybe it is until you pass forty or somewhere around that age. Or perhaps for some, it's always thought of as just a number. As for me, it no longer was 'just a number' when I became a senior citizen, and even for a few years before.

The age at which we become senior citizens varies broadly. Interestingly, many will only admit to being a 'senior' if they can benefit from senior citizen discounts. A few stores and restaurants offer discounts at the age of sixty, but for many others it's necessary to be at least sixty-five.

Not many years ago, sixty-five was referred to as 'elderly,' which I think is an objectionable term. However, it is now used less frequently because in recent years many individuals who are sixty-five and older, are hale and hearty, active, vivacious, and fully engaged in life. They no longer sit in a rocking chair, just waiting to die.

But you'll have to take my word for the fact that regardless of good health and an active lifestyle, there are changes that can and do begin to occur by the age of fifty-five or sixty.

Here's my present take on aging:

When you are ten, you can hardly wait until you become fifteen. And when you reach fifteen, you want so much to be eighteen. When you reach twenty-one, in most instances, you are quite satisfied for a few years, and happy to be in your twenties. But soon afterwards, things begin to go downhill. You often hear a thirty-year-old say, "Oh wow, I'm really getting old; the time between twenty and thirty went by in a flash."

The age of consent in the United States varies from state to state: from ages sixteen to eighteen. This affects the ability of teens to engage legally in sexual activity. And in many states, teens who are sixteen or younger may not marry without parents' consent or authorization from a court.

In 1984 the legal drinking age in the US was changed from eighteen to twenty-one years. And it remains so, in spite of recent false internet claims that on June 4, 2015, once again the legal drinking age had been lowered to eighteen. That was misinformation.

Now, after those youthful years of our 20s and 30s, we reach what is referred to as middle-age. Then, before we realize that it's happening, we've reached 'old age.' Some of the synonyms are not pleasant to hear: decrepitude; feebleness; senility; infirmity; winter of life. And there will probably be changes generally beginning around the age of fifty-five or sixty, but in no way should this be interpreted to mean that all or any of the changes are inevitable.

Oneothersome change with which many are likely to be afflicted is osteoarthritis, or some type of musculoskeletal problems, especially if you incurred serious joint injuries at an earlier age.

You may also suddenly realize that you can not see well enough to read a book. The ophthalmologist informs you that you have a condition known as Presbyopia. This occurs as the lens becomes less flexible and loses its ability to focus as we age. As a result you must wear glasses (apparently there are procedures to correct this condition which would eliminate the use of glasses).

Another exasperating change is that you lose hair where it once grew bountifully (hair that you needed and wanted), and now hair grows where you've never before seen it (and never wanted it). Long, lush eyelashes I once had a thing of the past; now the few eyelashes I do have can hardly be seen.

Dry skin is another annoying fact, and of course there are wrinkles and thin, sagging skin everywhere; nothing is tight, firm, or smooth. There are also brown spots, and other little wart-like growths, which the doctor informs me are called seborrheic keratoses. She says they're quite common in older people and are completely harmless.

There are changes in sleep patterns, as well, which seem to come and go. One thing, though, that is constant is that the number of hours of sound sleep are fewer, and, at least for me, it takes longer to fall sleep.

This may be one that I should not mention, but I will. Many old people have a distinct, somewhat unpleasant odor. I've done research on this topic, and it is definitely a reality. So-called 'experts' have a number of explanations for the odor, some I accept and some I do not. What I believe is a major cause of the odor is that a large number of older people do not bathe or shower regularly. And they wear the same clothes day after day; they often think that it's okay because there are no visible stains on the clothes.

Does not it make sense that the metabolic waste excreted from the body's pores can cause the incompetent odor? Perspiration and digestion can likely cause that kind of waste excretion. So if you bathe often, can not you rid your body of that odor?

Now, for the good news: Dementia is not a normal part of aging. Neither is osteoporosis, hypertension, incontinence, digestive problems, depression, or lethargy.

It's true, of course, that lifestyle, environmental, and genetic factors are, in part, responsible for the variations of how well a person can function, physically or mentally, at any given age. Any or all of those factors may explain the cause of diseases and illnesses. But my content is that, of those factors, lifestyle is the most important: eating properly, exercising regularly, a positive attitude, proper rest and sleep will certainly improve our physical and mental state, and forestall many negative aspects of aging.

So, we senior citizens should begin today to think positively, eat right, and exercise regularly, and let's all try to remember that our chronological age is not a measure of "dotage." But, let's face it, age is more than 'just a number.'



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